PETALING JAYA: Hundreds of foreign workers are stranded at KL International Airport (KLIA) while waiting for their applications to go home to be processed by the Immigration Department.
An NGO, the Malaysian Sikh Association, said it had distributed about 1,000 food packs daily since July 15 but the crowd keeps getting bigger, with more people without food.
“They are told to come six hours before the flight to get a Covid-19 test and to board the plane after that, but most are missing their flights,” association member Ravina Chahal told FMT.
She said the majority of the foreigners were undocumented workers, forced to retake a Covid-19 test which costs RM200 and to buy new flight tickets, costing between RM1,000 and RM1,200, to return to India
Chahal said some of them had run out of money and food and had been pleading with family members in India to help them buy another ticket.
“Most of them were factory workers. There are no more jobs for them here, so they are going back under the government’s recalibration programme,” she said.
She said that as more foreign workers gathered, it was becoming impossible to adhere to physical distancing, heightening the risk of a Covid-19 cluster at the airport.
“SOPs are not followed, as the crowd keeps getting larger,” she said.
Chahal said some of them had tested positive and were immediately quarantined by the immigration authorities.
“Some have been waiting for as long as two days,” she said.
Immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said that until yesterday, 101,691 illegal immigrants had registered under the Recalibration Programme and 83,117 had left the country.
He added the special counters at KLIA had been overwhelmed and many missed their flights because “they were late” and waited for the next flight.
Due to that, several measures have been put in place including adding 20 more counters to accommodate at least 850 to 1,000 foreigners at any one time.
Other measures are to allow some of them to depart from KLIA2 to process documents of 500 foreigners at any one time, he added. Khairul said they will also open special counters in Johor to allow undocumented workers from Indonesian to return.
“We could start doing this by next week,” added Khairul.
On July 8, Khairul was reported to have said the department had set up a special counter at KLIA to speed up the recalibration programme.
The counter on Level 3 of the arrival hall was opened in early July.
To take part in the programme, foreign workers are required to show proof of their travel documents approved by the relevant embassies, flight tickets to their homeland and pay a compound of RM500 which should be through their debit card, credit card or Touch ‘n Go e-wallet.
They also need to obtain a polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) screening test slip which is valid for 72 hours before the flight time.